Motivating Your Child At Home – Part One
Motivation is a common topic for discussion in our community these days, so if you are wondering how you can help to continue to motivate your child at home you are certainly not alone.
Whilst younger students are developmentally eager to please their parents and teachers, the length of time that we have already engaged in distance learning is taking a toll on the motivation levels of all learners.
This article (part one of two), will make connections between how teachers work in the classroom and teaching strategies that parents can use at home to leverage quality learning.
Reflect to move forward
Teachers are reflective practitioners. After teaching a lesson or a unit a quality teacher will typically ask themself “what can I do differently next time to improve student learning?” Good teaching teams and schools build ways for teachers to reflect together.
As parents at home, reflecting on how distance learning is going, and making small and large changes should be expected and is not a sign of defeat! Children and schools are always changing, so the learning dynamic in your home should be flowing and changing too. If you are living with a spouse or partner then we encourage you (just like our teacher teams) to reflect on the following ideas together.
Make space for learning
There are environmental cues that help students know that it’s time to work. By now, you may have already heard that (ideally) you should create a special place for your child to do their distance learning. This provides students with some cognitive clarity around the idea that “when my body is in this space, I’m here to work”.
If you haven’t yet set up a designated space for your child to do their desk work – give it a try. And if you have set one up, now might be the time to change it up. Variety, after all, is the spice of life, and this rings true for both the classroom and home learning environment too.
In a regular school year, teachers frequently move their desks and tables around their classrooms. This sparks student interest and refreshes their spaces. They also use the strategy of ‘regrouping’ (where children will work in different groups, in different parts of the classroom) throughout the year.
You should get your child enthused too: ask them where they would like to set up their “new” learning space. Have your child take some pride in the space by adding motivating (but not too distracting) items to their work area like cool pens and erasers.
Proximity is a teaching strategy that works at home too
All teachers know this trick intuitively, and the best teachers deploy it as an intentional strategy. As the old saying goes: “keep your friends close, and your distractible student closer”!
If your child is unable to complete a distance learning task independently, because their ability to manage time is still developing, or their focus wanders, then try positioning your child in closer proximity to you.
In the classroom teachers will ‘preferentially seat’ (this sounds like we are flying in business class) students so that they are physically close to them. Teachers can then preemptively provide support if the student gets stuck and they can monitor their work output to keep energy and focus up. At home you can achieve this by seating your child in a space with you nearby to provide timely help and positive reinforcement.
Catch and Release: not just for fishing
‘Catch and release’ is a fishing technique where caught fish are unhooked and released back into the wild.
When you are monitoring your child’s learning at home you should seek to provide them with opportunities to come to you for help and guidance, but then try to ‘release’ them to a period of independent work. How long that period is, before you ‘catch’ them again, is dependent upon their age. This is what happens in classrooms – obviously teachers don’t sit with one child all day. Instead, they cycle through their classroom, connecting with each student, providing help and then moving on.
If you are unsure how long your child can reasonably be expected to work independently, ask your child’s teacher on our upcoming parent/teacher conference day.
Schedules are obvious, but overlook them at your own peril!
If possible, sit down with your children at the start of the day and co-create their schedule. Just like in their classrooms they will know what is happening that day and can provide input into the order that they complete tasks. There are many articles out there to support you with this, here is an excellent one.
A topical aside: Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton was marooned with his men on the polar ice in 1915 for 16 months. According to the New York Times, “He did not lose a single man, and one of his primary tools was routine. They had a structure every day: They did exercise, they did work, they had game time, they had mealtime. And that structure kept everybody alive. I never forgot that — the power of routine.”
Keep it upbeat and invest in levity
Our last tip for this week: and that is in normal classrooms teachers use rigor, high expectations and humor and empathy in equal measures. Don’t underestimate the power of a few jokes and a brain break along the way.
As always we are here to support.
The UNIS ES Counseling Team
Kris Bezzerides (Discovery – Grade 2, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dylan Meikle (Grades 3-5, email@example.com)